The phantom pain, his missing finger, faded to the background as he clung to the ledge. The flares of heat washed over him as the lava boiled below, but even that he barely noticed. He knew he was closer to death than he had been at any point on the quest, and he didn’t care. Frodo had long ago accepted that his fate was tied to the ring.
The fingers from his good hand slipped as his weight and fatigue worked to free him from his life and pain. The bed of flames waited to receive him. They had already welcomed his ring brother, Smeagol. Gollum’s fate had also been tied to the ring, while the creature may have been too far gone to realize it, Frodo knew. Gandalf had known it too.
Unable to control himself, Frodo peered into the swirling mass of yellow and orange death and easily spotted the ring. It called to him still. He desperately wanted to answer that call, but he could hear Sam, faintly, calling for him, telling him to hold on. His friend’s voice, his faithful friend, Sam The Brave, was too far away though. It wasn’t powerful enough to lend any strength to Frodo’s tired mind and body. His blood shot eyes, strained from the heat, the miles, the grief, watched the ring float on the surface of the lava.
It could still be his…
Sam’s voice was more urgent, more forceful, demanding attention, and Frodo could no longer ignore it. He swung his eyes away from the ring and saw his companion reaching out for him. Knowing it wouldn’t work he reached back with his broken hand. There was no hope, though. Death was his only option.
But, somehow, Sam hauled him from the edge, even as the ring slipped below the surface, destroyed, even as it had been created, in the fires of Mt. Doom. Relief flooded through Frodo. Relief and a great sadness. How had he managed to escape his fate, to break the pull of the ring when Gollum hadn’t? When Smeagol hadn’t?
He looked to Sam and knew the answer. Where Smeagol had been cast out and forced to wander alone, cursed, Frodo had never lost the love and support of his friends. He was sorry he hadn’t done more to befriend the creature. As much as he had done, it hadn’t been enough. If he had been nicer, if he had tried to understand more, if he had treated Gollum as an equal, perhaps Smeagol would have survived, in the end, too.
Tears coursed down the hobbits dirty cheeks. The sweltering heat caused them to evaporate before they’d even reached the cave floor. His grief could not disappear to easily. It would stay with him for the rest of his days.
I said I could.
How’d I do? And, what do you think? Does Gollum deserve a bit of sorrow, or did he get what he deserved?